A whelk is an edible sea snail.
“The Whelk” is the name of the newest restaurant in town. Located across from the old Doc’s on Riverside Avenue, it’s the latest addition to the funky mix of Italian, Mexican, seafood, steak and Mario Batali-type places that are fast making Saugatuck an actual lively place to be.
His newest venture is similar — much of the food is locally sourced — but very different. The Whelk’s menu spotlights oysters, clams and shrimp.
There’s smoked fish pate, salmon jerky and lobster rolls, along with chilled seafood salads, a tuna burger and blackened fish sandwiches. I recommend the spectacular (and innovative) octopus, squid and fries in beef gravy.
Meat (for dishes like the lamb burger) comes from just across the plaza — the mouth-watering Craft Butchery — while general manager Massimo Tulio (you know him from Fat Cat Pie and Fountainhead) has designed an extensive list of hand-crafted wines. “All the growers have their hands in making it,” he says proudly. “There’s nothing with chemicals.”
Like the rest of the Saugatuck development, The Whelk is light and airy. There’s a long white marble bar, a couple of large communal tables, then plenty of window tables. There will be outside dining too (whenever).
Last night, the place was filled for a private party. Bill plans a soft opening next week. It should fill quickly, as many new restaurants do.
But The Whelk will have staying power. And when spring and summer finally arrive, it and the entire Saugatuck neighborhood — including a new Asian cuisine and sushi bistro around the corner in the former Peter’s Bridge Market — will be rockin’.
They’ll do it 2012-style. But in many other ways, Saugatuck will be just as alive as it was 50 or 100 years ago.